Sheer Heart Attack
Sheer Heart Attack isn’t just Queen’s breakthrough album; it’s an essential blueprint for a kind of high-drama pop-rock, one still followed by everyone from The Killers to Lady Gaga to Imagine Dragons. And while the band’s peers skewed earthy and rough—think Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath—Queen presented as polished, flamboyant, and fastidiously detailed. This was hard rock forged not from the blues, but from opera and musical theater. As far as a hard-rock acts go, Queen wasn’t a bulldozer—it was a ship in a bottle. Prior to Sheer Heart Attack’s release in 1974, Brian May worried that tracks like “Killer Queen” were too light. But the group’s obsessive layering of sounds—the bright bell that comes in around the first minute; May’s brief, feline guitar growl just after the second—became the band’s calling card. And even the heavier tracks on Sheer Heart Attack have a posh, gentlemanly feel (“Stone Cold Crazy,” “Brighton Rock”). If there’s a revolution here, it’s the idea that rock could be powerful without pretending to be natural or raw—that being theatrical was no less authentic than being rugged. Still, in the end, the most important thing was that it all made for a good show, no matter how it all came together. Some bands offered the illusion of coming to you live and direct; Queen’s four members wrung every overdub out of their shiny, 24-track mixing board that they could. The week Sheer Heart Attack came out, an interviewer asked Freddie Mercury if his satin and velvet outfits ever got him attention on the street. Yeah, he said—but he wasn’t about to change into jeans because of it.